SEDGWICK — So, you’re toodling along the road through Blue Hill and into Sedgwick, along narrowing, uppy-downy byways that will eventually drop you in the Atlantic Ocean.

Suddenly, one of the uppies tops out to a gorgeous vista overlooking a sweeping blueberry barren, a glimpse of Walker’s Pond, Penobscot Bay dotted with islands, and Camden Hills in the distance.

This is Caterpillar Hill, and it’s a view treasured by surrounding communities.

The view is the kind of thing that creates a sense of connection to a place and the beauty of the natural world. It’s also the kind of gem that brings a community together to preserve that place in perpetuity.

That’s exactly why the Caterpillar Hill Initiative (CHI) was formed.

“We love this area. We love the beauty and we want to preserve it,” said CHI president Dylan Howard, who recently discussed CHI’s purchase of a 30-acre property here.

For generations, the land was owned by the Condon family, whose restaurant faced the road above the land.  In 1994, the family leased the building as an art gallery. A local artist, Kelley Mitchell, began running the gallery a year later.

In 2003, the Basil Ladd/Condon Trust put the property up for sale. Mitchell founded the grassroots CHI in 2005, with the help of Sedgwick resident Nancy Boothby, to raise money to buy the land, both to preserve the vista and develop an environmentally sensitive cultural and education center.

Recently, the Amherst, Mass.-based Equity Trust Fund—a nonprofit revolving loan fund that supports land protection—loaned CHI the down payment of $85,000 toward the purchase price of $740,000, plus $40,000 to begin construction of an amphitheater and fund operations. The site abuts Blue Hill Heritage Trust’s 134 protected acres and town-owned land.

“This will remain a cultural heritage,” said Howard who, with other board members, has donated his time to the project. “Now we’re looking at community need.”

On 1.8 acres at the property’s apex, CHI is building The Avalonia Amphitheater, an outdoor classroom and performance space. Further plans call for replacing a nearby derelict house with an education center and restoring the historic gallery and ice house building.

Architectural design by Nielsen Van Duijn of Blue Hill, in consultation with David Coomer, owner of Brooksville-based Solarmarine, is aimed at energy-efficiency and aesthetic considerations.


The sod-roofed education center will be excavated into the ground, to minimize its profile and gain natural warmth. Additional heat will come from south-facing windows. Solar photovoltaic and thermal arrays will generate electricity and hot water.

The parking area will be under a sod ceiling, perforated like a trellis and supported by piers. Walking paths will be a system of perforated tiles so pedestrians can view flowing water beneath.

“We’re using quite a bit of new design technology,” said Van Duijn.

Plans for the amphitheater call for a system of piers to support a wooden base to be poured with a 48-foot-diameter, 6-inch-thick circular concrete platform, equipped with radiant heat pipes. It’s expected that work will be complete in December, ready to debut performances next spring.

Ultimately, the platform will be covered with a colorful tile mandala. This is where an innovative fundraising initiative comes in. In a small building repurposed as a tile factory, volunteers will make 6,000 tiles in batches. The tiles, with the names of donors, will be installed as part of the mosaic. Tile sales began this fall; placement of the first batch will be in the spring, starting from the center and radiating out in concentric circles.

“It will take, probably, two or three years, to make and sell tiles,” said Van Duijn. “This is a fun project, and meaningful. It allows the community to be involved.”

The mandala’s dark colors are expected to heat the radiant floor system enough to keep the stage clear of snow during the winter, and possibly for reserve hot water.

All together, the five-year plan calls for raising $1.8 million for restoration, construction and operations.

Most immediately, CHI needs to raise $51,000 to cover operational expenses between now and next summer, when revenue-generating programs begin. Another fundraiser is CHI’s online shopping arrangement with major retailers, which donate a percentage of proceeds ( A second annual holiday emporium will keep the site open thru mid-December.

“People are ready for this,” said Howard. “We want to be part of the solution. It’s a place where people can meet and talk about what’s important. It’s a cultural place where community building naturally happens.”

CHI programs will connect people to the natural world through Project NatureConnect, a higher-education program that focuses on experience with nature, as well as art, recreation and events that honor the principles and creativity of nature. Some examples include nature-based workshops, social entrepreneur and sustainable initiative workshops, outdoor movies, yoga and meditation, theater, art classes and concerts.

Most importantly, the board is eager to get input from the community.

“I’m hoping, if people see the vision, they’ll take ownership of the vision,” said Howard.